Earth Jet stream pattern

Shifts in Earth’s jet stream patterns have caused an extra cold winter for some.

One concept surrounding global warming that many people have a hard time wrapping their heads around is encompassed in this question: If global warming exists, then why is it so cold? The fact that this winter has been incredibly cold for much of the country might make it seem to some like this whole “global warming thing” isn’t actually happening.

Unfortunately, it is. The Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media recently released a video that gives people the science behind the cold, and how the cold spell that much of the U.S. is experiencing doesn’t disprove global warming. This six-and-a-half minute video, edited and scripted by Peter Sinclair, combines a variety of newscasts from around the country and interviews Rutgers University’s Dr. Jennifer Francis about the polar vortex and why it’s happening.

Essentially, it all boils down to the jet stream patterns. Normally running a fairly straight West-to-East route, the jet stream patterns have now shifted to a slower, meandering route that runs right through the U.S. This stream carries with it arctic air, which is being brought far further south than normal.

On the other hand, warm air moved aside by this cold stream is hitting places like Alaska, Washington State, Russia, and parts of Europe—causing abnormally mild and dry winters. California is experiencing a three-year drought, which has resulted in wildfires statewide and snow cover that’s just 20% of what it should be.

“But can we say that this is connected to climate change? No.” says Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University. “But it is completely consistent with the kinds of patterns that we expect to see happen more frequently as the arctic continues to warm.”